“We are called.”
Elizabeth Radday, '01, Ed.D., shares what it means to be Jesuit educated
When I arrived at Loyola, I remember going first to the Center for Community Service and Justice (then the Center for Values and Service). I had come to college three days before the start of my freshman year to participate in Student Orientation to Service (SOS), staying overnight at Beans and Bread, a soup kitchen, and spending one day at Mother Seton Academy, a Catholic middle school.
My intention was to move in to college a few days early and make some friends; I had no idea that this brief orientation to service would have a huge impact on my life.
I first heard of the Jesuit idea of being “men and women for others” during SOS and for some reason, this idea really stuck with me. I remember standing in the chapel a few days later for Mass, hearing the words to the hymn “We Are Called” for the first time, and feeling like I truly had been called to serve others by being at Loyola.
For the following four years I tutored middle school students at Mother Seton Academy every week and volunteered at Beans and Bread when I had the chance. As I began my senior year, I felt strongly about participating in a year-long community service program. I found the inequity in our own country to be astonishing and upsetting, and I wanted to do something to help others once I graduated from college.
I felt blessed that I had been able to have a fulfilling and eye-opening four years at Loyola. I wanted to give back to a community in a more meaningful way than weekly volunteering. Armed with a double major in Spanish and French, I was unsure as to how I could use these degrees to help others in need.
I sat down to speak with Fr. Tim Brown, S.J., early in my senior year, and he suggested I look into a service program where I could teach. It had never crossed my mind to be a teacher. There was no prestige! There was no money in that career! I had no teacher training! On the other hand, I loved working with the middle school students at Mother Seton Academy, I had experience tutoring my peers in French and Spanish, and I had worked as a camp counselor for years. I took Fr. Brown’s advice, and figured I could teach for a year or two and then get on with my “real” life and a more lucrative career.
I joined the Response-Ability Teacher Service Program in Philadelphia. Shortly after graduating I was placed at Holy Name School in Camden, N.J., teaching middle school math. Holy Name is one of few Jesuit elementary schools in the country, a member of the Jesuit Urban Service Team that included the school and its parish, and local social medical, and legal services.
The teaching job and the Jesuit community in Camden clarified my vision of how I was going to be a woman for others. We went to Mass weekly as a school and listened to the engaging Jesuit priests speak to the kindergarten through eighth grade students, involve them in the Mass, and spread God’s love to all of us.
I was totally committed to my students and fell in love with teaching. After three years of getting my feet wet in my first classroom and earning my master’s degree at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, I knew I still had more to learn—and that I could make a bigger impact on more students if I went back to school full time.
Since completing my doctorate, I have been at The Marvelwood School, a small, independent boarding school in Kent, Conn. It is as far from urban education as one can get, but my students are no less deserving of good teaching. As the director of our learning support program, I have the privilege of working with an intelligent and capable group of students who have learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. These are all college-bound students who have been unsuccessful or have struggled mightily in traditional high school classrooms. I now focus my energy on making sure that I am prepared to teach students with varying abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
This past spring I was awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching and will be able to travel to Jyvaskyla, Finland, from January through July 2016 to study special education practices in vocational and university-track high schools. This fantastic educational opportunity is due in large part to my Jesuit education.
At Loyola I became passionate about learning and reading from a wide variety of disciplines. The core curriculum exposed me to classes I never would have chosen on my own—philosophy, psychology, ethics, and history. I had professors who were engaged in their own research and who cared about me as a student.
I try to engage my students in a similar fashion; I want them to believe that school is more than just the content taught in the classroom. I want them to love learning, reading, thinking, and discovering as I do. My aim is to inspire them by being an example of a lifelong learner—in the same way I was inspired at Loyola.
In addition to having a tremendous influence on my academic path, the Jesuits also played a huge role in creating my family. My husband and I met while teaching at that small Jesuit school in Camden during my volunteer year. When we were ready to start a family, we chose to adopt domestically. I believe God led our two beautiful daughters to us, and that they are only with us now because of the hard work of our social worker, who also happened to be a Loyola graduate. She worked closely and thoughtfully with each of my daughters’ birth mothers, and my husband and I are proud and happy parents of 6- and 4-year-old girls.
Just as I was told during freshman orientation, my Jesuit education turned out to be about so much more than what I learned in the classroom at Loyola. As I guide my students toward their next steps in education, I always pray that they will find the perfect fit for them as I did when I chose to be a Greyhound.